Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

At the Beach with Dogs

Useless Bay, Whidbey Island

I love summer. Yes, I’m a teacher, so I have seemingly endless days off, I get to travel, and I get to sleep in. But, one of my most favorite things to do when the weather starts to turn nice is to take my dogs to the off-leash park. I live in a condo, so while we can go for daily walks, there isn’t a place where they boys can run around and have fun. There is a park with a nice off leash area. It’s hard to take them out there in the winter, though, as it’s sort of a former swamp that’s been converted into a park. When we do get out there, though, the boys are really happy and come home exhausted.

Well, yesterday, we decided to one-up ourselves. Out on Whidbey Island, a short ferry trip away, there’s a place called Double Bluff beach. This wide and very flat beach has a large off leash area. We took the dogs out there and let them go crazy. By the time we got home, they were covered in sand and their paws had a sort of greenish tint. Walking back to the car, Riley was lagging behind because he was so tired. When we got home (and the boys both had a thorough bath), they both crashed and slept the rest of the day.

Here are some pictures from our adventure!

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Pardon me, can you turn off the wind?

I’m a frequent air traveler.  And, like most people who travel regularly, I have the airport processes and procedures down to a science.  I also have my personal preferences and travel routines:

  1. I wear slip on, comfortable shoes that make security procedures easier.
  2. I like an aisle seat, as close to the front of the plane as possible.  Being able to stand up immediately after a flight is vital!
  3. I don’t work on planes, unless there is an extenuating circumstance.  I prefer to read a book, listen to music, sleep or watch movies.  Plus, it’s difficult to keep a laptop open in a coach seat.
  4. I rarely make conversation with other passengers, but I am not rude.  I say hello and smile at the beginning of the flight, but then keep to myself.

Point 4 is not set in stone, but it’s one of those things that makes getting through a long flight easier for me.  No small talk.  It’s also the hardest to enforce.  Because my policy of keeping to myself is occasionally in direct contrast with someone else’s policy of chatting up everyone in the immediate area.

I went to Colombia last week.  We flew in on Sunday night, spent a long week booked with back-to-back meetings and flew home on Friday at 11pm to prepare for a long few weeks of proposal-writing, budgeting, planning and reporting.  After a week like that, and with the next few weeks’ agenda in mind, Rule 3 was in full effect.  I planned to watch movies, eat what I could stomach of the airline “breakfast” (served at 12am), and hopefully log a few hours sleep on the way back to Boston.

Sadly, it was not to be.

I sat next to a Colombian woman who may have been anywhere from 55 to 75 (she had had a lot of plastic surgery).  She was sitting in the middle seat when I came up to the row and indicated that I was assigned to the window seat (direct violation of rule 2, must speak to our travel agent about this).  I sat down, said hello and got ready for the flight.  She pulled out an English guide and started reading it.  Shortly before take-off, I sneezed.  She said, “Salud” then asked how to say that in English.  I told her “bless you” and we chatted amiably for a minute about her trip and her new knowledge of English.

Then the flight took off, I put in my headphones and started watching a movie.  And that was when my agenda and hers began to collide.  I had just started the movie and she said something to me.  I didn’t catch it, so I took out my headphones and she said again that she was having trouble making her touch screen work.  I gave her a quick tutuorial (during which, she requested that we set the TV up in English so she could practice) and got back to my movie.  After the next five or six interruptions, I started to wish I had set up the screen in Spanish.  Phrases like, “right up your alley” are difficult for me to translate into Spanish and don’t appear in most Spanish-English phrase books.  And, being of small stature, it became my responsibility to turn her air vent and light on and off at request. It went on like this until I turned off my screen and went to sleep.

Plane sleep isn’t awesome, but sometimes necessary.  I slept fitfully for an hour or two, then I heard the cabin announcement that we would be landing shortly, no electronic devices, blah blah blah.  At this point, my cheerful neighbor woke me up.  Awesome.  I groggily awoke and read for the final minutes of the flight.  Once we landed, my neighbor stayed seated until almost all other passengers had de-planed.  Keeping me hemmed into my window seat for twenty minutes, longing for escape.  Silently resentful, tired and ready to scream.

Ahh, the joys of air travel.

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Puppy Love

On Tuesday, I returned from a three week trip to the East Coast. While I had a blast, there was one thing that made me look forward to coming home – my little dog Toby. Fortunately, he was able to stay with my mom and his brother while I was gone, but he was still missing me and I was missing him.

Mom said that the first night I was gone, he sat by the front door waiting for me to get home and didn’t understand why I wasn’t there. He slept on her bed that night, which made his brother jealous. Riley kept positioning himself between Toby and Mom, making sure Toby knew whose bed it was.

Toby took to sitting on my bed and staring out the window. He’d rest his little chin on the windowsill and sit there for hours. He’d only bark if someone walked by with a dog or a small running child. He continued to sit at the door in the evenings, hoping I’d come through. The entire time I was gone, he was a bit down, not his usual perky self.

He continued to mope around the entire time I was gone. Mom would send me frequent pictures of him. It made me sad to know that my little guy was so upset.

On Tuesday, I came home midday. Usually, when I come home after being at work or the store, I walk in and both of the dogs have to sit and stay for about 10-15 seconds before I open the gate and greet them. I do this in part to calm them down and make it so they aren’t jumping on me and going crazy. Well, I knew that neither dog would have the control to do this when I walked in the other day, so I walked in, dropped my bags, and opened the gate so they could come to me. Both of them were super excited and jumped on me. Toby, in particular, was so excited that he scratched my arm and upper chest trying to get to me. When he gets really excited, his puppy kisses have just a touch of teeth in their. I was definitely getting little puppy nips. They both ran around, sniffing me and my bags, for at least 20 minutes. It was a great way to come home.

For the rest of the day, I had a shadow following me around the condo. Toby wouldn’t let me out of his sight, even when I went to the bathroom. That night, he was so excited that he got to sleep in my bed with me there. We both fell asleep and slept like rocks. It was like everything was finally right in the world again. If you ever want to feel loved, get a dog.

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Being Bicoastal

New York City Skyline Sunset

Image by mikeleeorg via Flickr

Greetings from New Jersey! Last Thursday, I flew from Seattle to Newark in order to enjoy a nearly three week vacation in the beautiful Edison, NJ area. While I realize that this is not usually considered a highly desirable vacation destination, it serves as a fantastic home base while I hit five states in my 19 days out here.

I love Seattle, but I truly miss the East Coast. I lived in PA for 9 years, NJ for two, and NYC for two.  Seattle will always be my hometown, but there are a lot of things that I miss about the mid-Atlantic region:

Seasons:

Seattle has two seasons – cold rain (November to April) and warmer rain (May to October). While growing up, I was used to this, but when I moved to PA, I became accustomed to have four distinct seasons. I loved the warmth of the summer, the cool crispness and changing leaves of the fall, the snow in the winter, and the actual spring.  Seattle doesn’t get much snow and has a very mild climate due to its proximity to the ocean. We also have a lot of evergreen trees (thus the name the Evergreen State), so we don’t have the amazing color changing leaves. I truly miss the seasonal differences that I grew to love out East.

Food:

I think the reason that I have had success with my weight loss in the past several months is because there is nothing to eat out west. Maybe if you have a lot of money and can afford fancy or cutting edge restaurants, food in Seattle is great. However, especially living in New York, I loved being able to walk in some little hole in the wall and having a fantastic meal.  The pizza is fantastic (all we have in Seattle is chains), the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to is a little family owned place just north of Times Square, and even at your little corner deli, you knew you could get a great sandwich (Seattle loves its Subway!). If I still lived here, I don’t know that I would have lost the weight I did, but I think I would be much more gastronomically satisfied.

Getting Around:

I know I’ve discussed this before, but Seattle has horrid transportation. It’s only been in the last year or so that I have been able to get to the airport without utilizing the services of a airport shuttle company of a taxi. We finally have one light rail line that goes between downtown and the airport. Of course, this still means that I need to get downtown, which I do via commuter bus. Once I arrived in Newark, however, I got on the monorail at the airport which took me to the NJ Transit station. Four stops down the line I was at my sister’s place. Easy Peasy. Why can’t Seattle figure this out??

I do love Seattle – on a sunny day in July or August, there is no place like it. It’s great when I want to go running in the summer – none of this 90+ degree temps with 60%+ humidity. The access to the water and the mountains make it ideal for the outdoorsperson. I just wish there was a way we could take a few of the really great things about the East Coast and add them to what we’ve got in the West. Maybe I’ll just continue to be bicoastal – spend the school year in the west and the summers in the east.

Now to end the week with a little Muppet goodness…

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Next week, the Our View From Here bloggers will be taking a well-deserved break. We’ll be back Monday, July 25th with our usual posting schedule. We thank you for your continued readership!

 

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Ahhhhhhh……annnnnd we’re back

Vacations are delightful, aren’t they?  Particularly when you have no to-dos, no responsibilities, no wake-up calls.  Coming back from vacations is less awesome.

I was just away for a week, I went to TN, to our friends’ houseboat with my mom and my sister.  We have known these people since I was seven and my sister was five.  My mom worked at a preschool with two other women and they really hit it off. They happened to all have kids about the same age.  We all became friends, too.  So these TN trips are like a big family reunion.  During the weeks we’re floating in a TN lake, I have more mothers, fathers and siblings  than any other time of the year.  Remarkably, this isn’t a cause for irritation.  The people who own the boat have cultivated an atmosphere of extreme relaxation:  You want to float with a drink in your hand?  Sure!  You want to get drug around the lake behind the boat? Ok!  You want to lay on the deck and get sun?  Cool!  How about going to ride on the jetski?  That’s good too.

Which makes it all the harder to come back to the reality of expectations, schedules and work.  I’ve been feeling zombie-ish this week.  Getting my thoughts together is harder than usual (which could be because the weather has been hotter than usual) and my desire to move myself is pretty low.  My brain is still on vacation.

Never fear!  I’m going back on vacation next week.

 

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May: A month with no weekends

A quick thanks to Sam for taking the Wednesday post off my hands.  I was sick (so her germ-based post was especially apropos) and I had completely forgotten that it was Wednesday–I took a long weekend so Tuesday was my Monday.  But, she jumped in like a champ when my concentration wasn’t strong enough to tackle three or four measly paragraphs. 

So it’s May.  The month has come and (nearly) gone so quickly.  It hasn’t helped that I’ve been indoors for the last seven days because of the rain; I’m a couch zombie this month.  But, when the weekends come, that’s my time to relax, rejuvenate and retravel to New Hampshire. 

This month, my weekends have been full.  Usually I go up north once a month or so.  I visit my family or go to the lake house, always taking advantage of the opportunity to do laundry for free.  But this month, it’s been EVERY WEEKEND. 

Weekend the first: May 7 and 8
May 8 was Mother’s Day, so that’s a no-brainer.  Of course, I went to see my mom and spend time with her. It’s also my sister’s birthday.  We had lots of fun, exchanging gifts and brunching and hanging out. 

Weekend the second: May 14 to 16
My cousin has two charming babies.  An almost two-year-old and a five month old.  These are very happy, pleasant children. The kind of children that make me scared to have kids because I’m afraid my own kids will be hellweasels, and it will be hard to make people like my kids as much as I like these kids.  I took a day off from work on Monday to spend some extra time with the kids (and to hopefully get some things done for myself like grocery shopping and cleaning my apartment, but those things were not to be).  It was, in reality, an excellent time. 

Weekend the third:  May 21 and 22
This coming weekend, I’m in a bit of a pickle, because technically, I could stay home, but pragmatically I need to go back to NH.  My cousin is graduating from college this weekend.  I’m not going, but there was talk that my parents would go.  My sister, thinking that I would be in Colombia told her roommate that she could “probably stay” at my apartment with her father and her brother because I’d be out-of-town.  Then, Colombia didn’t happen.  But, because my parent’s were going to the graduation, I figured I would come up and dog-sit for the weekend, so my apartment would be free.  I agreed to vacate my house.  To be clear: I don’t have a problem with people staying in my place.  I know and trust my sister’s roommate, and it’s a pleasure to be able to do this for them.  On Tuesday my mom called and said, “looks like you can stay home because we’re not going to the graduation after all!”  So I said, “but there will be people staying here, so I have to come up.”  Again. forever.

Weekend the Fourth: Memorial Day Weekend
It has yet to be confirmed, but I think this will be a lake weekend.  I want to start planting my garden up there, my dad wants to get a jump on some house improvements and I think they’re bringing the boat out of storage.  The long weekend is a good one for trips up to the lake, and there might even be a bbq.  I’m totally in for this.  Unfortunately, that will make five weekends in a row that I’m not home (I forgot to mention the last weekend in April, which was also a lake house weekend). 

No, the drive isn’t onerous.  Yes, I love being around my family.  But I have to start being where I live more.  I need to make my apartment nice and cozy.  I need to buy groceries.  I need to vacuum and scrub the tub.  I need to re-organize my kitchen cabinets.  These things won’t happen on week nights.  They just won’t.  I need a weekend, at my house, on my own. 

Oh, I’ll also be going up to drop the dog off the first weekend in June.

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6 Reasons You Should Have A Passport

Biometric United States passport issued in 2007

Image via Wikipedia

My passport expired last month.  This is the first time since I was 17 years old that I do not have a valid passport and it grieves me. I just got the picture done and the paperwork filled out. I just need to get my act together and mail it all out. Oh, well, I have to write the check too.

So, since this has been on my mind, I decided to do a little research on passports in America. Our country doesn’t have the zeal for international travel that our European brothers and sisters do, in large part due to the prohibitive cost of air travel abroad.  But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t less expensive options that many Americans pass up.  I live less than two hours from the Canadian border and have only visited a few times in my life. Mexico is easily accessible, especially for those in the southern half of our country.

I read an article on the Huffington Post that detailed the percentage of passport holders in each state. Not surprisingly, the highest percentage of passport holders live on the borders or the coasts.  The middle of the country is significantly less. My lovely state of Washington is in the over 50% range. California, New York, and New Jersey are all, as expected, over 60%.  Mississippi is the only state under 20%.

So, in honor of my newest passport application,  I’ve come up with 6 reasons that every American should get a passport.

1. Traveling Internationally

This is kind of a “duh” statement, but it is the easiest way to travel abroad and the only way for most countries. If you are going to Canada or Mexico, you can get the Passport Card or Enhanced State Driver’s License, but these countries have special allowances. You cannot use your Passport Card to go to China!

2. Spontaneous romantic rendezvous in Paris or Rome

A girl can dream, can’t she?  Don’t we all harbor the dream that our loved one will sweep us off our feet and whisk us away to a romantic European city for a weekend getaway?  Now, how embarrassing would it be to have to say no because you didn’t have a passport! We must be prepared!

3. Easier at the airport

Even when I’m not going abroad, I use my passport as my ID at the airport.  I used to use my driver’s license and that worked fine most of the time.  However, when I moved to New Jersey and got a Jersey license in 2003, I started encountering difficulties at security. It turns out that the Jersey license in the late 90s-early 2000s was very easy to fake and subsequently, people looked at it with a lot of suspicion.  The passport is standard and every security agent recognizes it. Plus, it’s a great place to put your boarding pass inside so it doesn’t get lost.

4. Stamp Collecting

I’m not talking about those things you stick on your bills to make sure they get to their intended destination.  I’m talking about the stamps that customs in each country places in the back pages of your passport each time you enter the country.  Each country has its own unique stamp with the name of the country and sometimes a little picture.  When your passport expires, you have to send the old one in, but they send it back to you with holes punched in the bar code so you can keep your collected stamps. My first passport has stamps from Amsterdam and Switzerland. My second has the U.K., Italy and Jamaica. Who knows what my next one will have?

5. Show up the snooty Europeans

It’s a fairly understood fact that a higher percentage of Europeans hold a valid passport than Americans. Of course, it’s a little more essential when the countries are smaller than many U.S. states. Traveling internationally for the weekend is a way of life. However, there are many that look down on the Americans for not having passports. I say we should all get one and show them!

6. They are just cool

Seriously, I was really excited to get my first and second passports. I am excited to get my new one in the next few weeks.  There’s just something about having a passport that makes you feel like you are something special.  You could go abroad at any moment! You stay at home because you choose to, not because you are restricted from going anywhere! Whoo-hoo!

Okay, so it’s a short list and maybe I’m the only one that dreams of flying to Europe for a weekend, but the list has done it’s job.  As soon as I post this, I’m going to write my check, sign my forms, and send off my passport application!

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My Summer Vacation

No, your calendar isn’t wrong. It’s January.  But, I’ll be conveniently ignoring that for the next few paragraphs because I am in the throes of the winter doldrums, and we’re really only a month into this slog.  We’ve had a fairly large dose of snow every week this month and all the digging, trudging and freezing are wearing thin my patience and pleasant demeanor. 

So, today, I’m planning my summer vacation. 

Last summer was one of the most fun I’ve ever had.  I kicked off the season with a week in Tennessee, on a houseboat.  It was great. There was nothing to do but sunbathe, swim, boat and drink cocktails.  At night we played games and watched fireworks.  We also held the First Annual Blow-it-out-Your-Ass Contest (a thrilling sport, in which contestants use their lungs to expell air through the hole in the center of a floating noodle held underneath the body. The championship is awarded to the contestant whose water goes the highest in the air.  It’s way more fun than it sounds.)

Waterworld

Following the trip to TN, I opened my family’s lake house to my friends for a week and a half.  You never really know how many friends you have until you have a free place by a lake for them to stay.  We boated and cooked and had camp fires and played games.  I stayed at the lake the whole week and half, and friends came up for a few days at their leisure.  The fridge was kept stocked with beer and fresh vegetables. We kayaked to secluded islands to pick wild blueberries, we swam, we floated, we went for long walks.  It was splendid.

This year, we’re doing it all again. 

And, this, my friends, is what’s keeping me going through the snow and the slush and the freezing rain.  Even though, right now, it feels like it will never be warm and sunny again, the memories of what last summer was and the hopes for what this summer will be are keeping me warm in this season of little sun and long cold nights.  

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go dig my car out from under a snowbank.

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The best laid plans.

Sunday I had it all figured out. Relax Monday and Tuesday get some chores done around the house and head to Connecticut on Wednesday and schedule my interview for Thursday or Friday. It seemed like a relaxing excellent plan. Mother nature had other plans in mind.

Monday morning I get a message from my friend and we had a conversation that shot a big massive hole in my plans.

“Are you still coming up this week?”

“Yeah. Going to have lunch with our friend on Wednesday and drive up.”

“Um. Have you looked at the weather.”

“Yeah”

“…for Connecticut?”

I then found out that overnight the forecast had gone from a couple inches to well over a foot of snow on the very day I planned on traveling. My nice relaxing Monday turned into me frantically trying to alter my plans. I scheduled my interview for Tuesday before the snow. I then planned to get snowed in with friends the rest of the week. I ran around packing what I’d need to get me through the week so I could get on the road before it got too late.

Cocoa with mega marshmallow...yum!

My interview went great. I’m anticipating a call next week and then starts the stressful process of relocating. The forecast was on the money. We got walloped by a huge blizzard yesterday. The same one pictured in Nicole’s post yesterday. We hunkered down, had hot cocoa, and played with baby. My friend’s husband went above and beyond and dug my car out for me last night so I don’t even need to worry about that now. It may have made for a stressful Monday but the change of plans worked out in the end.

Sorry this post is a little disjointed but to be honest my attention is more focused on the cute baby on the other side of the room. When I get home, I’ll have to start packing and prepare for my big move. Until then back to baby time.

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East Side, West Side…

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City

Image via Wikipedia

I have been fortunate to live on both the East and West Coasts. I was born here in the West, spent many formative years in the East, and three years ago, I returned to the West. I honestly don’t know which I like better.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but there is definitely one thing about the East Coast that I like much more than the West: ease of travel.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, I felt like I could go anyway without too much trouble.  From where I was in PA, New York City was only a four hour drive, D.C. a little more than three, and Philly or Pittsburgh a little less than three.  Boston was even an easy weekend trip.  Living in NYC and NJ, everything (except Pittsburgh) was even closer! I loved taking off for a weekend with some friends and ending up two or three states away.

However, here in the West, road travel is not nearly so easy.  The closet major city – Portland – is about 3.5 hours away from Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C. is about four.  That’s it.  I could go to Spokane in about six hours, San Francisco takes about fourteen.  I miss the long weekend trips.  It’s just too much of a hassle out here.

Even air travel is easier from the East Coast.  While living there, I had the opportunity to visit Europe multiple times and even went to Jamaica once.  To go to Europe, we still have to go to New York or D.C. to catch a cross-Atlantic flight.  We are closer to Hawaii, however, which is where many Northwesterners go for vacation.  We’re also closer to Asia and Australia, but neither of those trips are easy on the wallet. I miss the less than $400 tickets to London or Amsterdam that I could get out of the NYC area.

I’ve always had a bit of the travel bug. I love to explore new places.  I guess I just feel a little isolated up here in the upper corner of the U.S. after years of easy access.

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